See our full list of 2006 winners inside this article
January 31, 2007 Issue 16
Welcome to the second annual Product of the Year Award issue and 2007 Buyer’s Guide, your one-stop guide to the best technology products and services to grow your small business.
Whew! What an amazing array of products our Labs Team has tested over the past three months! We’ve scrutinized approximately 300 entries-our class of 2006 was double the number of entries for our 2005 awards.
Software as a Service Arrives for Small Business
The 2006 Product of the Year awards program attracted a staggering number of hosted online applications and services product entries. This confirms the arrival of SaaS as a significant technology deployment and consumption model for the Small Business market.
Let’s start by defining Software as a Service. Wikipedia defines Software as a Service (SaaS) as “a model of software delivery where the software company provides maintenance, daily technical operation, and support for the software provided to their client.” The network delivery mechanism is usually the Internet.
One of the principal advantages of SaaS for small businesses is that the functionality is “rented” from the vendor, meaning no capital investment requirement and less upfront risk for the business adopting the solution. Also, due to economies of scale derived from a large number of users, you’ll find many SaaS products offer significantly more functionality than similar products that can be purchased and installed locally.
One of this year’s Finalists, NetSuite, is an outstanding example. For a relatively modest cost, small businesses can rent Business Management functionality that spans most of their business processes, such as ERP; CRM and eCommerce. As one of the original players in the SaaS space, NetSuite’s mature application is now into its 11th iteration and has become a very slick package.
SaaS vendors are also providing point functionality that covers one or a couple of business processes in depth. Finance, the business process with the most traction thus far, was well represented among 2006 Product of the Year Awards entries. Strong contenders in this area include Cougar Mountain Software, provider of a comprehensive suite (CMS) of online financial applications. Other strong niche offerings within the financial applications sphere include entries from companies such as Journyx’s Journyx Timesheet, which concentrates on time sheets and expenses, Expensewatch.com, which handles expenses, which focuses on payroll, and Avalara’s AvaTax SST Edition which addresses sales tax calculations online. Paycycle Payroll Plus was a Finalist pick among the SaaS financial applications for its easy-to-use, well-designed online payroll management application.
Another key business process focus area for SaaS is marketing and sales. Email marketing solution entries such as IntelliContact and Elite Email Marketing from Eliteweb Inc. both have useful features. We named Constant Contact a 2006 Finalist for having, in our opinion, the best overall mix of features. Other SaaS marketing solutions entries have a different focus, such as OneLead, a product which supports lead generation, and SiteKreator Business Edition, which helps small businesses build engaging websites. We really like Oddcast’s SitePal, a product that offers a different approach to engaging customers on your website. We awarded SitePal as a “Product to Watch” and believe its innovative technology has the potential to become broadly used. One of the best online marketing applications we tested was Zoomerang zPro, which earned a Finalist spot for offering an inexpensive and intuitive tool to build online surveys for marketing and product intelligence. Landslide, an intriguing newcomer to the SaaS sales force automation space, proved a well thought-through application, earning a Finalist spot and edging out another well-known, strong contender, Salesforce.com.
Back-office applications have not been ignored by SaaS providers, as evidenced by the plethora of high quality entries in this year’s competition. Remote application support solutions were popular; entrants included NetSupport’s NetSupport Manager, Citrix GoToMyPC (a Finalist last year) and Citrix GoToAssist. In our view, NTR Support from NTR Global is a standout product in this category, with its extensive range of configurable functionality. Customer support applications also did well; we were very impressed with Finalist BlueService from BlueFolder, an online service team automation application with extensive functionality at a reasonable price.
SaaS applications for communication and collaboration were also prominent in our list of entries and winners. Citrix Online was well represented with Citrix GoToMeeting, and it’s Citrix GoToWebinar product, a very impressive online webinar event distribution solution, earned a Top 10 award for its ease of use, killer features and price point. Well done to Citrix Online for it’s consistency! Glance earned a Product to Watch award for its desktop sharing application that is extremely simple to use. Other communication entries included Infinite Conferencing with it’s Reservationless Phone Conferencing solution, while Freeconference.com earned a Finalist spot based on its easy-to-use service at an unbeatable price point (free!).
Security applications are rapidly moving toward an appliance/barrier defense model, and a logical extension of this is offering remote security solutions. We were very pleased to see strong entries in this category, including MX Logic, for its MX Logic Web Defense Service and its MX Logic Email Defense Service, which earned a Finalist award.
Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 R2 earned a Top 10 winner spot this year for outstanding value given the breadth of its features, such as file and print, email and groupware, and intranet collaboration. However, competition is intensifying with vendors providing all-in-one solutions online that offer comparable file, email, groupware, instant messaging, intranet, extranet and in some cases security features. We’ve recognized several Products to Watch, including BlueTie Business Class Collaboration Software, HyperOffice and ViaCube SOHO Business Solution. We were particularly impressed with the range of functionality from DirectPointe’s Small Office Solution. Watch this space. It’s clear that this will be a hyper-competitive area for small business SaaS products going forward.
The final hosted service/solution area to highlight is online PBXs/telephone switches, which are combining with Voice over IP (VoIP) technology to offer small businesses compelling and competitively priced solutions. M5’s Outsourced IP Phone System (a 2005 Finalist) was joined this year by strong entries from PBNext, Angel.com (with products for virtual receptionists and call centers) and Virtual PBX. We were most impressed by simple point telephony applications such as Finalist CallWave Mobile by Callwave and Product to Watch VirtualOne from GotVMail Communications, both products offering straightforward features and value for the small business user.
Software as a Service has definitely arrived in the small business market. I encourage you to try out some of these great products for yourself.